Friday, February 27, 2009

Happy Thoughts on the Book of Job: Nature and Theodicy

My assignment for our Sunday Night Bible Study was Job. Now when you think of Job or you hear that occasional reference to him in a religious setting, you don't usually break out and sing "I'm Happy Today" or "I've Got the Joy Joy Joy Down in my Heart." Or do you?

But in preparation for the class I found something that did make me feel good and start me thinking down a positive and uplifting path. I came across an article by Harry Hahne titled Nature and Theodicy in the Book of Job. His web site links to it.

Here's the opening:

The book of Job has more to say about nature than any other biblical wisdom book. Concepts of nature are woven into the dialogs throughout the book -- in the mouth of Job, Job’s friends, God himself, and in the prologue. Much of the theology of nature is in the form of implicit assumptions that inform the book’s teachings on many subjects.

More later. The morning is moving on, 5:14 am, and I need to get to work.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Experiential Versus Creedal Religion

From Living Gnosticism: An Ancient Way of Knowing by Jordan Stratford.

Gnosticism is an experiential, not creedal, religion - you can't simply announce that you agree with a list of ideas and be saved from the illusion of our separation from God.

While I have some problems with aspects of gnosticism (a catch all term that covers a wide range of sometimes disparate things) I see some value in this statement. The lists of ideas to believe in serve for boundary maintenance between those outside and inside the approved group. They become internalized so that they become crucial to a person's very identity.

With this I promise to move to more positive and uplifting rather than critical comments in the near future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Critique of the Church of Christ

Here's one perception/critique of the Church of Christ. About half way down in this blog post, Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, Fr Stephen Freeman describes what he calls Christian Atheism.

Surprisingly, I would place some forms of Christian fundamentalism within this category (as I have defined it). I recall a group affiliated with some particular Church of Christ, who regularly evangelized our apartment complex when I lived in Columbia, S.C. They were also a constant presence on the campus of the local university. They were absolute inerrantists on the subject of the Holy Scriptures. They were equally adamant that all miracles had ceased with the completion of the canon of the New Testament. Christians today only relate to God through the Bible.

Such a group can be called “Biblicists,” or something, but, in the terminology I am using here, I would describe them as “practical atheists.” Though they had great, even absolutist, faith in the Holy Scriptures, they had no relationship with a God who is living and active and directly involved in their world. Had their notion of a God died, and left somebody else in charge of His heaven, it would not have made much difference so long as the rules did not change.

I realize that this is strong criticism, but it is important for us to understand what is at stake. The more the secular world is exalted as secular, that is, having an existence somehow independent of God, the more we will live as practical atheists - perhaps practical atheists who pray (but for what do we pray?). I would also suggest that the more secular the world becomes for Christians, the more political Christians will become. We will necessarily resort to the same tools and weapons as those who do not believe.

That's a little harsh maybe but he gives a basis for an observation I've made. From my experience in the past, I think it has been easier for disenchanted ex-church-of-christers to go the way of the skepticism or atheism than perhaps those of other christian groups.

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